Every Jeep® vehicle has a reputation to uphold. It must be capable to go anywhere and do anything.
But, first it has to pass the test – well, actually hundreds of tests – before the Jeep team determines it’s ready for showrooms and whatever adventures customers dream up for their new SUVs. The all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee was designed to deliver superior ride, handling and on-road dynamics, as well as traditional Jeep off-road capability, so the engineering team had to create new tests to validate the unique vehicle.
The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk model is the only vehicle that has to meet the company’s strict durability standards for both passenger cars, as well as off-road vehicles.
Last year, Chrysler Group built a new Lateral Loads Test Track at the Chelsea Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Mich., and the Cherokee is the first vehicle tested on the new durability course. The Lateral Load Test Track recreates the type of suspension stresses that a vehicle gets after years and years of hard driving on twisty roads that are more common in Europe.
According to Manager of Durability Test Schedule Development Dino DePaolis, the new track at Chelsea replicates the lateral stresses in the same way as a track at Fiat’s Balocco Proving Grounds in Italy. To validate Cherokee’s durability, development vehicles were run through the new track approximately 40,000 times, which simulates millions of rigorous miles.
“We kept all the tight corners, eliminating the straightaways in order to accelerate testing, and we’re able to make a correlation to the development testing in Europe,” DePaolis explained. “The test drivers take the Cherokee to about 80% of its handling limit, just short of making the tires squeal. We do this thousands of times during the life cycle of our vehicles, and we also do benchmarking tests on competitive vehicles.”
Quality engineers at the Proving Grounds were also challenged to find new methods to verify the long term durability of the Trailhawk’s innovative driveline. The Cherokee offers three new four-wheel-drive systems, including a segment-exclusive locking rear axle on the Trailhawk model that gives the Cherokee Trailhawk best-in-class off-road capability.
“You’re probably not going to come across a set of concrete stair steps in the wilderness, but an off-roader will encounter rocks, stumps and other obstructions that the Cherokee will need to step over,” said Mary Parker, manager of Durability Testing at Chrysler’s Proving Grounds.
The 14 concrete steps (image directly above) are one element of a new Off-Road Durability Test Standard created specifically for Cherokee Trailhawk models. Another test element includes the wheel-lift mounds (top image) that are strategically designed so that two of the Cherokee’s wheels, on opposite sides of the vehicle, are in the air at the same time while the Cherokee traverses the off-road course.
Parker explains: “These are all different types of off-road situations that we want to test. It’s the combination of the wheel lift, torque transfer and suspension articulation that we test in the proving ground’s controlled environment to make sure our customers can be confident in whatever difficult situations they face in the real world.”
The Cherokee test fleet tackles the Off-Road Durability Course thousands of times during development in order to ensure customers can enjoy the Trailhawk’s off-road capability for many years.
The new additions to the Cherokee test schedule are just a small part of the overall development and quality testing that goes on at Chrysler Group. The Jeep Cherokee has completed more than 14 million miles of testing, including lab environments, proving grounds and public roads in a wide range of climates. The objective is to find and fix any issues before our customers experience a problem.
The Cherokee will be sold in more than 150 countries around the world and the company also conducts quality testing in markets where the vehicles are sold. For example, Asian-market Cherokees will be tested at the Mt. Everest base camp to check for any altitude issue, as well as places like Dubai for extreme heat and sandy, desert conditions and cold weather conditions in Russia.